Dealing With Difficult People…Part 1

We all know them. They’re out there. They might be our co-workers, our clients, our family members, our friends, or even our partners. What do you do when they’re people that have to be in your life?

For starters, there are different types of difficult people and, therefore, there are different ways to deal with them.

I had so many difficult personalities to go over, that I decided to divide this blog up into a 3-parter, so stay tuned…


These folks always “believe” they are communicating, but nothing could be further from the truth. They mistake body language and facial expressions for assertive verbal communication. The behavior itself (an angry glace or an over-dramatic sigh) might be passive, but later actions (taking the last slice of pizza when they know the other person wants it) indicate signs of aggression. Note that the aggressive aspect is not punching or yelling – it’s more subtle, which is what makes it passive.


I might encourage clients to be more assertive by pointing out that that I sense some tension from their behavior, tone of voice, or body language and I would ask them if they would care to discuss what’s going on. I will be very patient, compassionate, and understanding. I might explain the different types of communication and why it is important to learn to be more assertive and how others might be reading said behaviors, tone of voice, or body language.

In dealing with the passive-aggressive, remember that you are dealing with someone who is averse to having confrontation. It might help to try and be empathetic. Most of us aren’t born with the right tools to communicate effectively – it’s something we have to learn.


Lucille Bleuth and Lucille Austero, Arrested Development; Nurse Ratched, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; Rosalyn Rosenfeld, American Hustle; Betty Draper, Mad Men


I used to be a BIG TIME pessimist, but I would have told you I was only “realistic” about things. My attitude was that, “If it can go wrong, it will” and that “If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all”. Looking back, I can hardly believe that’s how I used to go about in life.

A pessimist has usually already made up his mind to be the victim in most situations and isn’t really looking for solutions, but just wants to vent or complain. It’s much easier to stay stuck where you are and moan about the woes of the world than to accept responsibility for your part in it and do the work that needs to be done. And a lot of us get stuck in that mode from time to time.


People who are stuck in negative thought processes often see the world as a very cruel and lonely place. Don’t perpetuate that for them. Try to treat them with compassion, but be careful not to get sucked in to their negativity. Try to point out the positives in a given situation, without seeming too much like a “Little Miss Sunshine”.

My rule of thumb is to offer up two suggestions when someone has a complaint or an issue. If I feel the person is working harder to explain why the suggestions WON’T work than they are listening to why they will, I disengage. I might even explain to someone that they don’t appear to want a solution and, therefore, I don’t see how I might be of assistance to them.

You know you can’t change a pessimist (unless they’re interested in learning how), so do your best to be mindful that this is just how the person is, be thankful you are not that way, and carry on with your day.


Dr. Gregory House, House; Red Forman, That 70’s Show; Sophia Petrillo, The Golden Girls; Frank Costanza, Seinfeld; Karl Pilkington, An Idiot Abroad; Oscar the Grouch, Sesame Street

Hope this helps! Have a great weekend and Happy Valentine’s Day!